Last week, in the midst of reporting on the coming budget cuts, I asked for your ideas on how the city of San Diego could close its $43 million budget gap without closing libraries and recreation centers among other things.

You weren’t shy — I received more than a dozen e-mails over the weekend. Most focused on saving libraries. Here is a sampling:

  • Charge a few dollars for library cards. Those who couldn’t afford them could be subsidized by The Friends of the Library.
  • Keep the libraries open, and use volunteers to cover hours that can’t be covered by paid employees. City Library Director Deborah Barrow told me last week that using volunteers wouldn’t be workable. She had this to say: “We have wonderful volunteers. [But] a volunteer is a volunteer. Most don’t make the commitment equal to a full-time or half-time job.”

Several readers disagreed. Here is an excerpt from one well-reasoned response:

In San Diego there are hundreds of people who are trained to work in libraries, many of whom have worked for years and are retired/at home w/kids/doing something else, etc. I think there is no excuse for not using volunteers to fill in for the 7.5 hours per library that has been suggested. In my experience a committed volunteer is the same as a committed worker—just free. With computer programs that sort schedules there is no need to have a “logistical” nightmare at all.

How about contacting a few of the recent retirees/laid off folks from City Schools – and many UCSD/USD/SDSU librarian’s retired/part-time, etc., may well be very willing to work in their local library. There are also many students who need internships and they should not be overlooked. I was educated in a school system that never had professional librarians, but the libraries were superbly run – mainly by the kids who loved books and were happy to be trained to assist others.

Volunteers are often experts who are currently doing something else and will be happy to participate in an activity they value.

  • Close one or more of the city golf courses.
  • Freeze all new park construction.

Check back later for more. And feel free to e-mail me at with more suggestions.


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